Many factors go into choosing a college. The process of choosing the perfect college for either yourself or your child is time consuming, confusing and can even be overwhelming. You must consider many things including: the size of the school, programs offered, location, the town, the extracurricular actives, the social activities, the reputation and last but not least, the price. Many people put price as the last factor in their decision on which school to attend thinking they can just take out financial aid to cover the costs of the school. Most do not consider whether they can actually afford the school. Today, with the national student loan debt topping 1 trillion dollars earlier this year, it’s hard to ignore the cost of going to college. Recent reports released by the U.S. Department of Education show that 82 percent of college students receive some type of financial aid and 53 percent receive loans that they (the student) will have to repay. It is now more important than ever that when choosing a college you choose the right school, not just for your personal and educational needs, but for your financial needs as well! Loans need to be repaid so don’t drown yourself in post education debt without making an educated decision first. Ask yourself, can you afford your future career?
Things to consider before accepting admission to a college:
Private v. public:
According to the U.S. Department of Education, students at public four-year colleges pay $16,900 without aid and on average, $10,200 with aid. Students at private four-year colleges pay $32,700 without aid and $16,900 with aid. Take this into account and weigh whether it is worth choosing a private school over a public one.
In-state v. out of state:
Most schools charge a higher tuition for students who live out of the state that they are attending school. Consider attending an in-state school if possible or even becoming an in state resident of the school you attend.
2-year v. 4-year:
Consider starting at a 2-year community college and transferring to the 4-year college of your choice. This will save you a tremendous amount of money for the first two years, which are typically spent taking the basic college courses. If you keep your grades up, transferring to a larger school is easy and you may even end up at a better school than you would have if you went straight from high school. This way, you can take the classes that are related to your major at a larger school without taking on large amounts of debt.
Price of college v. Predicted income:
Consider your return on investment. Make sure the cost of the college you are thinking about attending makes sense compared to the degree you are thinking about pursuing. This may be difficult since many people enter college not knowing what they want to major in (which is why I suggest attending a 2-year community college before attending a 4 year university). Look into the average pay for the career you are considering and see if you can afford to work and repay your loans.
Actual cost of living:
Generally, attending college costs more than just the rate of tuition and room and board. Textbooks and class materials, as well as food and travel expenses should be considered deciding if a school is financially right for you. Look at all of the expenses related to the school you may want to attend.
Things to consider once you’ve picked:
Work Study and RA Programs:
To cut down tuition costs consider, doing a work-study program or an RA (resident assistant) program. These programs may help you cover room and board costs or other tuition fees. Ask the school if there are other school sponsored programs to reduce the cost of tuition. You may be surprised with what is available.
Watch your credits:
Ask yourself, will you be able to finish your program in 4 years or will it take 5? Find out the percentage of students that graduate in the 4 years. Take advantage of your school’s tuition policy. Make sure to look into what different schools offer full-time students for fixed tuition rates. You may be able to pay the same price whether you’re taking 18 credits or 12 credits. If you are paying a fixed rate for tuition you should load up on classes while you are a full time student because you aren’t paying per-credit and it’s more bang-for-your-buck if you take 18 credits rather than 12. If you can handle the maximum amount of credits you should do it! Especially if it means you can graduate in less than 4 years!
Scholarships and Grants:
If you are looking to go to a school that you know you and/or your parents cannot afford look into applying for scholarships! Scholarships are offered for many things, not just academic achievements or extracurricular achievements. Scholarships are beneficial even if you choose a lower cost school! Any and all money received from scholarships and grants do not need to be paid back (the same applies as money received from New York State TAP (tuition assistance program). Check out scholarship databases such as http://www.fastweb.com/ or http://www.findtherightscholarship.com to find the right scholarship for you!
Picking a college can be a stressful process. It’s a huge decision to make that will affect the rest of your life! But, if you follow these tips you will be able to enjoy the process while making the right choice!
Leslie H. Tayne, founder of The Law Offices of Leslie H. Tayne, P.C., assists consumers and individuals with the resolution of their unsecured debts. The firm's flexible and well established policies and procedures have helped thousands of individuals lead a debt-free life. For more information, call 1-631-470-8204 or visit www.attorney-newyork.com.